Tag Archives: Zinsser Primer & Sealer

Subterranean odyssey, part 2

[Special guest blogger Eric continues his saga of transforming the unspeakably gross basement into a usable workspace.]

Halfway there!

When you have a room full of stuff and no storage space, what do you do? Make storage space, of course! But what do you do with all the stuff in the room when there is no other place to put it while you make storage space? Pile it up in one corner while you work on the other. Or better yet, go to the Flower and Garden Show and then go to the Seattle Home Show. In my last guest post I said I felt like Billy in the Family Circus. Ah yup. Here is how projects work at our house.

Cartoon of circuitous route from start to destination

We’re distracted by anything shiny.

The first step in creating my new workshop was, I thought, to repaint the walls a brighter color. Like white. Removing the dark color in a basement without much in the way of windows and replacing it with a light color just seemed the right thing to do. That meant removing some of the wood crate shelving so I could paint behind it. As I emptied the shelves, I sorted. Stuff for the dump here … stuff to keep there…unidentified stuff somewhere else. I was quickly running out of space to pile stuff. Two five-pound lead bricks could be used for something someday. So I put those on top of the foundation wall next to the little wooden Japanese sandals that a long-ago owner must have made for his daughter. Let the next owners of the house wonder where they came from.

Green wooden geta sandals for a child

D’Arcy found these Japanese geta sandals on top of a beam in the basement.

The solution to the storage problem? Take out half the wood crate shelving along the south wall, paint, and then install some new cabinets for storage. Fill the cabinets and the repeat the process. That was my plan. Here is what I started with.

Panorama of crowded, dusty worbench and tools

From wine to air-conditioner.

The first real step was to find a place to temporarily stash a few bottles of wine. The new wine cabinet will become a storage unit after I build a new wine rack or we drink all the wine, whichever comes first. One bottle a day and we will be out of wine sometime in late July or early August.

Tall, narrow white cabinet holding wine bottles

Red or white?

The fanciful paint job was actually fun to look at. But it made the room really dark. The dirty metal cabinet on the right is the original base for our vintage kitchen sink. It was rusted beyond use, so I chucked it … but I saved the Art Deco pulls.

Ols sink cabinet and workbench with leaves painted on wall

Elvis’s jungle room had nothin’ on this.

I decided on bright white paint. I first put Zinsser primer over the top of the painted wall. One coat was enough to cover the paint below. Of course, I had washed and wiped down the walls to remove the many-years-old dust and dirt that might be there. It seemed solid. But as the primer dried, the existing paint bubbled in places. And it flaked off in other places.

Bubb;ed and peeling white paint

Not a good sign!

It was then that I realized that the base coat of old paint (under the foliage design) was nothing more than a whitewash. So that meant scraping and wire brushing the walls to remove any newly loosened paint. A good lesson learned there. A new coat of primer went on. I made sure it was a version that had mold inhibitor and would cling to cement and masonry. The white semigloss went over that.

When I had cleaned and painted about half the wall I stopped and bought a couple of inexpensive storage cabinets at IKEA. They were two inches too tall. I had to trim them down so they fit under the floor joists. Now I had a place to put hand held power tools and accessories. A good start!

Two tall, white IKEA cabinets

IKEA to the rescue!

When the walls were all painted white the room seemed so much brighter! If there was any OCD within me I would have put a skim coat on the rough foundation walls to make them smooth. But what the heck? It is a basement, after all, and no matter what I did to the walls and floor, it would still be a low-ceiling basement! Harumph …

New white paint on one wall, original paint on the other

Before and after

My next task was either to buy or manufacture some sort of new worktable for myself. I wanted a lot of drawers and counter space. I figured 28” x 78” was a good size for a worktop. It would go under the east wall and window. Since the closest worktable I could find for purchase was roughly $850 and was not everything I wanted, I decided I would build one myself. Wouldn’t it be great if I had a fully functioning workshop to build something like that?

Stack of boards on basement floor

Future workbench

For $63 I purchased all the wood I needed for my workbench. Fir 2x4s and 2x8s were pretty much what I started with. That and some 1×6 pine boards. These days, a nominal 2×4 is actually 1.5×3.5 or so (plus or minus a sixteenth of an inch from board to board). That is something that is a constant reminder in our 103 year-old home, where the 2x4s really are 2×4. It always makes the remodel and repairs here interesting. I milled the 2x4s to1x3s and milled the 2×8 to even, squared thicknesses to create the tabletop.

Lumber for wrokbench cut to size

Cut down to size

At first I thought of making 15 wooden drawers for the workbench and then decided to go a totally different way. IKEA sells plastic drawers that are the perfect size and only a couple of dollars each. I picked up a few other things while at the Swedish superstore that would wind up in the basement.

The bench is done and works well. The entire workbench cost me less than $120 and many hours of labor. But it will work until I make one out of quarter-sawn oak or other really hard wood.

Wood workbench with colorful IKEA drawers

New worktable with IKEA innards

With the workbench done, I had the storage space and workspace to get the rest of the room cleaned and sorted. The pegboard is full of tools, the cabinets are in place and full, and all the bench tools are in their resting places. My old center island worktable and all the bench tools are on locking casters so they can be moved around as needed. That helps when you have a small workspace.

Hand tools hanging on white pegboard wall.

A pegboard for tools, like everyone’s dad used to have.

Tall black metal tool chest and rolling tables for bench tools

The black tool chest is where the old sink cabinet stood.

What’s next? I still need to add outlets and another new LED ceiling light. And I need to seal a few more floor cracks and run some leveler on the floor, too.

When those last few items are done I will move to the other side of the basement. There is an old workbench over there that is still great. I plan on using both side of the basement. The side I am finishing now will be the area where we do the heavy work of sawing, milling, and sanding. The other side will be for the detail stuff and will hold more storage for household needs and some hobby things. And mostly spider free. The adventure continues.

View of other half of dark, dirty basement

More to come …

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

Dig here

What happened to me in the 12 years since I last painted the living room?? It seems I aged twice that much, because every time I come down from that ladder, my body expresses its extreme displeasure. All that twisting and balancing and trying to outwit my bifocals made painting the ceiling and crown molding less like fun and more like torture. But it’s done, and it looks good!

Corner of ceiliing with half box beam and crown molding

Ceiling and crown molding are painted

Now I could get on to the next stage: plaster repair. I was anxious to see just how much of the plaster I’d need to fix. Using my fingertips, I began to tap-tap-tap my way around the room. It was easy to tell where the plaster had loosened. As I tapped, the intact places went thunk-thunk-thunk, but the places where the finish plaster had separated from the base coat went pock-pock-pock. I was dismayed at how pocky the fireplace wall sounded. On each wall I drew a dashed line in felt pen where the pockiness started. The pocky line. Eric annotated it for me.

I decided to start on the south, interior wall, which had the least amount of damage—just a crack the size of Hell’s Canyon.

Crack in plaster outlined in felt pen

Start here

Eric presented me my very own utility knife in a bright froggy green that will be hard to lose. (I never lose things. I still have the ballpoint pen I bought when I went off to college … which may explain some of my clutter problem.)

Bright green utility knife

The “upstairs” knife

I used the knife to score the wall just outside the pocky line and slid a putty knife under the cracked surface—and what do you know!—the unattached surface plaster, finish paper, and layers of paint neatly separated at the scored line and peeled effortlessly away.

Section of detached plaaster cut away from wall

Plaster-ectomy

My excitement abated when I found more and more of the surface had severed its relationship with the plaster base coat, and I continued to peel away nearly all of the surface layer over the foyer opening. It just … kept … coming. Oh, dear.

Loose plaster peeled from over doorway

A new kind of map?

I couldn’t stop picking this scab. I picked away at a pocky bit above the fireplace. Same result: I peeled and peeled and peeled until only a few small islands of finish plaster clung to the wall. I didn’t want to risk gouging the wall by trying to remove plaster that was still attached. It was fine by me if it wanted to stay! Please, stay

Some of the surface layer had separated from the base coat by as much as a half inch. And, to my dismay, I found some deeper plaster damage above the mantel. You can see that the brown coat is gone in a small spot in the photo below. An even more ominous problem lurks behind the mantel clock, but that’s a topic for another day.

Finish coat of plaster separated one-half inch from base coat

These layers of plaster haven’t met for years

Putty knife standing in front of plaster damage with spider's nest

That fuzzy blob on the left is a spider’s nest

I stopped when I couldn’t reach any higher. Sigh … the Tuscan antiquity look would be interesting if this place were an Italian restaurant, but it isn’t what I’m going for.

Loosened plaster cleared off wall above fireplace

A wall in Tuscany?

I kept telling myself that this wasn’t a fail. I wasn’t in over my head—it was just prep work. Resurfacing a large area wouldn’t be any different than resurfacing a lot of small areas, right? And I knew I could fix a small area because I’d done it before, in the kitchen.

Now, most people would move the mantel clock to a safe spot during this messy project, but I simply scooted it over a few inches. And it began ticking! It’s been silent for years and I haven’t wound it. It kept time for four days. I think it was trying to encourage me to keep going.

Antique mantel clock

Alive and ticking

I began with the Hell’s Canyon crack. After lightly sanding the whole exposed area, I filled the crack with joint compound and applied plastic mesh tape over the chasm. Then I applied a thin coat of compound over the exposed brown coat and carefully smoothed it out with a rubber knock-down knife (more of a squeegee). The replacement top coat is only about 1/16 in. thick. I treated several other finer cracks the same way. The whole section, minus breaks for my achin’ back, took less than two hours to cover.

Yellow mesh tape repairs cracked plaster

Bridging the canyon

I always wonder how a wall feels when it’s opened up and exposed to light and air after over one hundred years in the dark. What does that 1913 plaster think about this 2016 yellow plastic mesh tape and joint compound? Will I awaken one morning to find that the wall has rejected the transplant and—ptooey—spat it out onto the floor? So far, my patching job is still on the wall.

A little elbow grease was needed to sand the joint compound to a reasonable finish. I didn’t want a perfect, flat surface that looked like Sheetrock. A few irregularities will help it blend with the original wall (I told myself). It was at this point that Eric bought me an adorable mini shop vac, who will be my buddy for the rest of this project. I pointed out how lucky he is to have a wife who gets excited by the gift of a shop vac. (It also has an 8-ft. hose extension to allow me to get up to the ceiling. Spiders beware!)

Mini shop vac

Adorbs!

Final prep step: a coat of Zinsser Bull’s Eye 2 Multi-Purpose Primer & Sealer. I was surprised at this primer’s gluey, gloppy viscosity. It pours from the can like angel food cake batter. At last, I’m ready to paint wall color! Stay tuned—in my next post, you’ll finally see the new wall and trim colors together. I can’t wait!

Repaired plaster wall primed and ready for paint

Ready for paint!

Hey, that wasn’t so hard! If I can repair this section of wall, I can do the rest of the room. But why the sudden craving for angel food cake?

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it